When Ebay launched 20 years ago, it ignited a new wave of ecommerce opportunities. Soon after, Amazon, Etsy and other online marketplaces came about, offering new channels for retail entrepreneurs, local small businesses, independent artisans and side-hustlers to reach their target customers. 

But these massive e-commerce platforms are getting increasingly crowded, making it tougher for smaller players to stand out. With the online consumer more educated yet easily distracted now more than ever, you have to get creative to let your brand shine and keep their attention. 

Here’s your guide to making sure your business does not get lost in the shuffle. 

  1. Top-notch images. Once upon a time “content is king” was a common mantra for entrepreneurs. These days, savvy business owners understand online success calls for a blend of ingredients, starting with beautiful imagery. High-quality photography is the key to engaging customers in a sea of products. First and foremost, all your photos should be well-lit, with high-resolution. Your product images should also include close-ups and different angles that showcase your product’s best features. While a clean black or white background looks professional, consider also including lifestyle images that show the product in context.
    For example, if you’re selling premium meditation cushions, start with a wide shot of the overall product, closeups of its best details be it great stitching or soft texture, and be sure to include contextual lifestyle images of someone using the seat at a cool yoga studio or cozy home. If you want to get extra creative, you can include an image of you as the inventor sketching or putting the finishing touches on your wellness product.
  2. Transparency. Because the customer is unable to see the product in the flesh, help them feel confident in their purchasing decision by providing a thorough item description. Include the size, dimensions, materials used and more. It’s also important to state your returns and shipping policies on these large marketplaces. Excellent customer service is a sure way to beat the competition. 
  3. Don’t rely on Amazon, Ebay and Etsy alone. Create your own direct-to-consumer site. The good news is it is easier than ever for sellers around the world to create their business websites.  Investing in your own business website enables customers to continue to learn more about your brand. It can further encourage them to make the purchase, view more of your offerings–and perhaps inspire them to add more items to their checkout cart. When selling on the large ecommerce sites or social media platforms, link to your own website if possible.
  1. Brand storytelling. If the platform allows it, provide a succinct but robust description about your company. What makes it special?  Entice customers to leave the busy Amazon platform and lure them to your own business website where they can zero in on your business (and not get distracted by competitors). In your business website, give them the opportunity to learn more about your company, who you are as the founder, and more about your product line.
  2. Go the extra mile. Sometimes the key to standing out in the crowded world of e-commerce means taking some extra steps offline. Leave a lasting impression by including a personalized note thanking the customer for choosing your small business. And/or add free gift-wrapping or memorable packaging that embodies your brand. Consider leaving a free sample of another item to cross-promote your product line. 
    For example, if you sell artisan meat jerky, and customers are constantly ordering your peppered beef specialty, consider adding a small sample of your bison or new teriyaki line. Add a small brochure that reveals more about the sustainable cattle farms from which you source. Use packaging that follows your color motif and clearly showcases your logo and or tagline. After all, when it comes to standing out as a small business, it’s all about the small details.